Human rights steps taken

The Cayman Islands Government will adopt several measures that will strengthen human rights in the country.

Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin announced in late January that the Cabinet had made the decision to have the right of individual petition to the European Court of Human Rights extended from the United Kingdom to the Cayman Islands on a permanent basis.

‘It was originally extended for only five years,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

The right was not renewed by the Cayman Islands in 1986.

Rights of individual petition are available under four United Nations treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

They permit anyone claiming to be a victim of a violation of rights under a treaty to bring their case before the supervising treaty body.

‘Cayman was one of only two (UK) Overseas Territories that didn’t have that right extended to us,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

The British Virgin Islands was the other Overseas Territory.

Another step that will be taken by the Government to strengthen human rights is to establish the necessary legislative framework for CERD, the convention concerning racial discrimination that has already been extended to the Cayman Islands, but without domestic enforcement legislation.

‘There have been discussions on whether or when we get our own Bill of Rights that would suffice,’ said Mr. McLaughlin. ‘But the UK has indicated further actions are necessary to ensure racial discrimination is not accepted.’

Mr. McLaughlin said there are some protections against racial discrimination in Cayman’s Labour Law, but that they relate only to labour issues and are not sufficient.

When drafting the enabling legislation, the Cayman Islands will look closely at the British Virgin Islands’ Anti-Discrimination Law 2001, Mr. McLaughlin said.

The Cayman Islands will also move to create legislation to enable CEDAW, the Convention dealing with discrimination against women.

‘The UK has been urging that the necessary framework is put in place before the Convention is actually extended,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘The Government has accepted that advice.’

For the purposes of the Convention, discrimination against women means ‘any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field’.

Some of the provisions of the Convention include having countries ‘modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotypical roles for men and women’.

The Convention also requires countries to ensure an understanding that child rearing is a common responsibility of men and women, with the interests of the child in mind.

With regard to employment, the Convention requires countries to take all appropriate measures to ensure that women have the same employment opportunities as men, and that they receive equal pay for equal work.

Mr. McLaughlin said the Attorney General would put through all of the new initiatives.

‘All of these initiatives have been very well received by the [Cayman Islands] Human Rights Committee,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

Mr. McLaughlin said the government was considering a request from the Human Rights Committee for an amendment to the Law Reform Commission Law to make sure at least one lawyer on the Commission has experience in human rights.

Mr. McLaughlin

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